Akbar Salim: The midnight visit

Akbar and Jehangir with falcon

The Year was 1604. Akbar had started falling frequently unwell by old age issues. Salim was back at agra fort for good after his revolt against Akbar since 1599. Man Bai’s suicide on 16th May 1604 had shaken Salim to the core. Man Bai was his first wife and cousin. She played an important role in handling Salim’s household in his absence during wars and revolt. She was same age as Salim and committed suicide by taking heavy dose opium in 1604.  She was given title “Shah Begum” meaning “Kings wife” by Salim after birth of Khusrau.

One day Akbar fell very unwell and wanted to speak to Salim urgently. He sent a message to Salim to meet him. Salim was in his palace with his wives and set out to meet Akbar in a boat in Yamuna river. As he was approaching shore a rain of arrows descended on his boat. His boatman died and Salim had to row back his boat back to his palace and could not meet Akbar. This was second attack after returning to agra fort.

Next day Akbar again send him message to come and meet him and he wants to speak to him urgently. This time Salim set out with bodygaurds. Salimreached shore and was about to walk towards agra fort gate leading to Akbar palace when an old courtier came running and told him to go back as if he enters agra fort he will not go back alive. A trap had been set to kill Salim once he enters the fort. Salim again went back to his palace unable to meet Akbar.

Salim was worried now not about his safety but his children and mother’s safety too. Some of his children like Khurram (Shah Jahan), Bahar were still in agra fort harem with their grandparents. Now Salim was always in war or in revolt since his kid days. He hardly stayed a few years with family from age of 9 years. So his kids were more close to grandparents than parents. Most of his kids considered Akbar as father than Salim as he was non absentee father in their life. Same way Ruqaiah and Marium uz Zamani were more like mothers to Salim’s kids than his own wives like Jodha, Kamrasi etc. Since kids were brought up more in Akbars household this was not surprising.

The mughal court was split into three camps, one was Salim camp. Second was Daniyal camp and third camp was Khusrau’s camp. Man Bai had committed suicide because Khusrau who was staying with Akbar started calling Salim “Shah Bhai” instead of his father and threw his contention to the throne. When Man Bai told him to be loyal to Salim in a letter he had refused to do so. Man Bai felt so dishonoured at his refusal that she drank wine mixed with opium and killed herself when Salim had gone hunting. Many powerful nobels sided with Khusrau be it Aziz Koka, Abdul Rahim Khan e Khana, Man Singh, Ali Quli etc. The mughal court was split wide open with all courtiers siding one or other camp.

By now Akbar was getting impatient. He had called Salim to meet him on two consecutive days and Salim had ignored his summons. Akbar was anyway angry on Salim for his revolt and killing of Abul Fazl etc. He had accepted Salim back to agra fort only because his mothers Salima and Ruqaiah etc had requested him. Further Hamida Bano, his mothers death had broken Akbar. But the deep divide between father and son remained. Salim’s enemies lost no time to fuel hatred in Akbars heart saying “Salim had defied Akbars orders on purpose and Salim thinks too much of himself” etc. By third day Akbar was furious on Salim for not visiting him although he had sent messages. By now entire agra knew emperor was unwell, so Salim must have also known it yet did not come to meet Akbar. Akbar sent a last message to Salim to meet him in his palace.

Salim got the third message and was not sure how to go and meet Akbar. Agra fort was filled with enemies lurking around every corner. His own son Khusrau, his cousin Man Singh, his uncle Aziziz Koka were all baying for his blood. Salim’s wives did not want him to go to meet Akbar as they were not sure if he would be safe. So Jodha Bai aka Jagat Gosain decided to go to meet Akbar. Jodha Bai was third wife of Salim and his senior most wife after Man Bai and his second wife death. Jodha Bai was also Khurram aka Shah jahan’s mother. Khurram was given by Akbar to be brought up by Ruqaiah Begum when he was a six day old baby.

Jodha Bai went to agra fort to meet Akbar. Now Jodha Bai had a safe passage into agra fort and Akbars palace unlike Salim. Jodha Bai was related to Bhagwan Das and Man Singh and Khusrau as her aunty (father Udai Singh sister was married to Bhagwan Das). Further by relation Akbar was not only her father in law he was her maternal uncle by marriage to her aunty Rukmavathi. So there was no threat to her life from anyone as all those opposing Salim were her close relatives and would never harm her. Jodha Bai went to Akbars palace and met Akbar and told him of Salim’s predicament to come and meet his father.   

Salim also had enemies in his own house hold. His two servants tried to assassinate him a few days back. Then they tried running to soutrh india to join Daniyal camp but were caught.  When Akbar heard from Jodha Bai the threat Salim faced he realized the true reason Salim never came to meet him all these days. Jodha took a few of Salim’s children with her and left to Salims palace after visiting Akbar. But khurram refused to leave Akbar and go with her to Salim’s palace. Khusrau anyways opposed his father and would not have left to stay with his father. The remaining kids of Salim from various wives Jodha Bai took and left to Salims palace.

A couple of days later, Akbar called his senior wives and told to ensure no one knows that hes left his palace. At midnight Akbar left in boat to visit Salim in his palace. Salim was surprised that his father had come to his palace to meet him at night. Akbar and Salim talked one to one with each other after many years and sorted out their differences and misunderstanding. Akbar left in morning back to his palace. Akbar called Man Singh, Abul Rahim and Aziz Koka and ordered them to allow Salim into agra fort. Thus finally Salim got to visit his family at agra fort and attend mughal court

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